While I am certainly no expert on clinical therapy I do have a modicum of experience from formal education and internship in clinical psychology. For that reason I wanted to share my thoughts on the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu for reducing anxiety and stress along with overall mental health.
For starters when people are feeling anxious, stressed or depressed the are often doing one of two things: getting “stuck” in the past or worrying about the future. For that reason, many approaches to therapy include methods to, “stay in the moment,” and not obsess over the past you can’t change or worry about a potentially negative future event that may never happen. I wrote last month about breathing for Jiu-Jitsu and Life and some of those breathing techniques, along with the focused breathing of meditation, serve the therapeutic process of focusing on the, “now.”
It’s this reason that, I feel, Jiu-Jitsu can be therapeutic as well. When you are focusing intently on learning a new drill or, better yet, rolling live with another classmate, so much of your brain is working on the task at hand. Judgement, problem solving, decision making, motor function, memory recall, and visual processing to name a few. When you are using nearly all of your faculties to avoid strangulation it is nearly impossible to think about the past of worry about the future. While drilling or rolling you are very much in the moment.
Over time Jiu-Jitsu will also improve mental health when he student has a purpose, something to look forward to, goals to set and attain and the confidence that comes with all of the above. Many practitioners will post something to the effect of, “Jiu-Jitsu saved my life,” and for many the mental health aspect of the sport is exactly what they are referring to.
Jiu-Jitsu is certainly not the end of stress, depression, and anxiety and anyone diagnosed or feeling like they have any mental health troubles should seek help from a mental health professional. That said I feel that Jiu-Jitsu is a great compliment to many treatment protocols and can certainly help with the common daily stresses life throws at us.